Author Topic: Music from non-orchestral cultures  (Read 13966 times)

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Offline Chaszz

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Music from non-orchestral cultures
« on: March 31, 2010, 05:29:09 PM »
I like to read about ancient Greece and Rome, and sometimes come across a line about the intense power of ancient music as testified to by its listeners. Likely this music was played by a flute and a lyre, or either one alone, in a modal scale. It starts me wondering about the power of this music to evoke deep sustained emotion and catharsis when compared with the formidable harmonic forces of orchestrated Western music. I like many kinds of jazz, blues and rock and also Indian ragas, but cannot say any of those has ever moved me as deeply as numerous works I could name of "classical" music. I know one can point to Western chamber music as being on a comparable small scale as non-Western classical musics, and very profound, but chamber music uses the formidable resources developed by the evolution of well- and equal-temperament, complex harmony (made possible by those temperaments) reaching into distant keys, and extensive orchestration. What about it -- are other musics as powerful as this? Of course it's easy to call me narrow-minded and bigoted, but what about the meat of the issue?
« Last Edit: March 31, 2010, 05:35:24 PM by Chaszz »
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Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2010, 08:26:59 PM »
The only art form i found that even remotely compares to Western classical music is Jazz. Anything else just falls short in one way or another.

Offline max

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2010, 10:19:22 PM »
Ancient music and most of non western music - I stand to be corrected - was subservient to a verbal event like drama, poetry, etc.  The catharsis of which you speak was mostly contained in the spoken word and the instrumental additions augmented the effect. One or two instruments added to a voice have much in common with the voice itself and the inflection of the language in which it speaks.  This is not music for music's sake but operates as a kind of shadow expression of what is articulated. It gives it an aura which heightens the emotion of what is expressed by the spoken word which in itself is a kind of music. The full effect is one of collusion.

Western music developed into a kind of Glass Bead Game (Glasperlenspiel) meaning an art complex enough at it's best to create by other means than verbal aural narrations - in which the voice is only another instrument - which the brain can reformat into words but definitely not with the same effect.  In the West, in short, music has become ultra verbal. At least that's my opinion pending any further insights. Sorry if it sounds incomprehensible. Maybe I was trying to explain it to myself. It's an interesting question!

Offline jowcol

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2010, 02:23:27 AM »
I like to read about ancient Greece and Rome, and sometimes come across a line about the intense power of ancient music as testified to by its listeners. Likely this music was played by a flute and a lyre, or either one alone, in a modal scale. It starts me wondering about the power of this music to evoke deep sustained emotion and catharsis when compared with the formidable harmonic forces of orchestrated Western music. I like many kinds of jazz, blues and rock and also Indian ragas, but cannot say any of those has ever moved me as deeply as numerous works I could name of "classical" music. I know one can point to Western chamber music as being on a comparable small scale as non-Western classical musics, and very profound, but chamber music uses the formidable resources developed by the evolution of well- and equal-temperament, complex harmony (made possible by those temperaments) reaching into distant keys, and extensive orchestration. What about it -- are other musics as powerful as this? Of course it's easy to call me narrow-minded and bigoted, but what about the meat of the issue?

In some ways, I find that Hindustani ragas take me "deeper" in terms of a pure meditative state than most "western classical"-- not sure if Catharsis is the work for it.  One of the negative side effects of the equal tempered scale is that some of the pureness of overtones is lost-- Ragas on Western instruments don't sound as rich. It's a tradeoff.

In terms of richness of harmonies, development of themes, and counterpoint,  and the wealth of timbres and textures, Western Classical is tough to beat.  However in some other areas (rhythm for one) , I get more of a lift from things like Indian music and Jazz.  There is something about the spontaneity of improvised music (in Jazz, Blues and Rock) that I also need on a regular basis.
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Offline Chaszz

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2010, 03:34:29 PM »
Ancient music and most of non western music - I stand to be corrected - was subservient to a verbal event like drama, poetry, etc.  The catharsis of which you speak was mostly contained in the spoken word and the instrumental additions augmented the effect. One or two instruments added to a voice have much in common with the voice itself and the inflection of the language in which it speaks.  This is not music for music's sake but operates as a kind of shadow expression of what is articulated. It gives it an aura which heightens the emotion of what is expressed by the spoken word which in itself is a kind of music. The full effect is one of collusion.

Western music developed into a kind of Glass Bead Game (Glasperlenspiel) meaning an art complex enough at it's best to create by other means than verbal aural narrations - in which the voice is only another instrument - which the brain can reformat into words but definitely not with the same effect.  In the West, in short, music has become ultra verbal. At least that's my opinion pending any further insights. Sorry if it sounds incomprehensible. Maybe I was trying to explain it to myself. It's an interesting question!

I accept that you're sorry, but it is incomprehensible.

Ancient music western music was both vocal with accompaniment, and at other times purely instrumental, according to the literary sources. However, voice and accompaniment does open up the topic to greater possibilities. One is the epic poem, such as Homer's Iliad, which was originally sung with lyre accompaniment. An extended song like this would possibly offer the means to deepen the experience thru repetition and development, based on the subject matter.   
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Offline Dax

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2010, 03:44:57 PM »
Try one or both of these from a culture with which very few of you will be familiar. Only a few minutes each.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/wpwdcf

http://www.sendspace.com/file/b7fpl4

Offline Chaszz

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2010, 06:23:57 PM »
Try one or both of these from a culture with which very few of you will be familiar. Only a few minutes each.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/wpwdcf

http://www.sendspace.com/file/b7fpl4

Where are these from?

They go right to the heart of what I'm getting at in this thread. They sound somewhat akin to an Indian raga or to Middle Eastern music. They are good music, exciting at times. But they stay close to a tonal center, with simple harmony, and therefore must rely for variety and relief by speeding up the tempo. There is none of the mesmerizing use of layers of orchestration, extensive harmony  and venturing into other keys we expect from classical music, and I for one feel because of this they are relatively flat compared to a robust or deep classical work.

The other posters above made good points about rhythm, and about jazz providing types of experiences which classical doesn't. But for me, anyway, jazz don't measure quite up to it, taken all in all. I also feel that, to use an example, the rhythm in Brahms' Piano Quintet is pretty solid and sophisticated. Brahms often uses the piano as a rhythmic instrument as well as a melodic one, and sort of puts the lie to the old saw about classical music being rhythmically simple. Bach also swings quite well in some of his fast movements. However, there is no doubt that when the when the improvising tradition in classical died out something important was lost, and jazz came along and replaced it.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 06:28:32 PM by Chaszz »
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Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2010, 07:53:43 PM »
Bach also swings quite well in some of his fast movements.

Maybe. There's little swinging to be found in western classical music though, and to be honest, there isn't a lot to be found among white Jazz musicians either (bar an handful of exceptions). How to describe what swing means anyway? Focusing on the rhythm doesn't even begin to approach the problem. Confusing swinging with swing music leads to even more disastrous misconceptions.

Perhaps there's something to be learned by listening to the first truly great swinger:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdLQkNhTkQQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfGZB78R7uw&feature=related

A few considerations. Swinging can only occur in improvisation. Swinging happens in the melody, not in the beat. You can swing over any type of harmony. Swinging feels right (rhythm doesn't always ought to). Mozart could swing, Beethoven could not. Swinging means doing everything right. Swinging is improvisation. Swinging is superior to virtuosity. Real virtuosity is swinging. Are you getting all this?


« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 07:59:53 PM by Josquin des Prez »

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2010, 09:06:29 PM »
Another one:

Swing is what makes Jazz great. Western classical music does not swing, and that is why it is also great, you dig?

Offline Dax

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2010, 01:59:05 AM »
they stay close to a tonal center, with simple harmony, and therefore must rely for variety and relief by speeding up the tempo. There is none of the mesmerizing use of layers of orchestration, extensive harmony  and venturing into other keys we expect from classical music, and I for one feel because of this they are relatively flat compared to a robust or deep classical work.

Oh dear.
Western art music has certainly developed such areas as tonal harmony, modulation and a certain type of orchestra - that has been one of the peculiarities of the culture. That doesn't make it necessarily better than music from other cultures - which may feature more/differently developed notions of (say) melody, rhythm and decoration. Your preference for composed Western music is, I suggest, because that's what you're most familiar with. The criteria by which you judge it is not necessarily transferable to that of other cultures. For starters, perhaps you should be noting those things you don't find in Western chamber music in the   music I posted.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2010, 08:17:09 AM »
That doesn't make it necessarily better than music from other cultures

What makes it better then other cultures is the prevalence of genius.

Offline Chaszz

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2010, 03:34:21 PM »
Maybe. There's little swinging to be found in western classical music though, and to be honest, there isn't a lot to be found among white Jazz musicians either (bar an handful of exceptions). How to describe what swing means anyway? Focusing on the rhythm doesn't even begin to approach the problem. Confusing swinging with swing music leads to even more disastrous misconceptions.

Perhaps there's something to be learned by listening to the first truly great swinger:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdLQkNhTkQQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfGZB78R7uw&feature=related

A few considerations. Swinging can only occur in improvisation. Swinging happens in the melody, not in the beat. You can swing over any type of harmony. Swinging feels right (rhythm doesn't always ought to). Mozart could swing, Beethoven could not. Swinging means doing everything right. Swinging is improvisation. Swinging is superior to virtuosity. Real virtuosity is swinging. Are you getting all this?

It's ironic that you point me to Louis Armstrong because I have been a great fan of his Hot Fives and Sevens for many many years, and have listened to those sixty-odd cuts thousands of times over. If I were going to give any non-Western classical music the palm for equaling it, the Hot Fives and Sevens would be it, plus some of his work from the early thirties. He certainly comes very close or makes it over the bar. Charlie Parker is another who does.

My favorite fantasy (non-erotic) for years has been traveling back in time to Chicago in the 1920s with an unobtrusive recording device, following him around and recording many many hours of that immortal forever-lost music for posterity. The fact that of all that genius we have only about three hours or less of recorded music is like the unfairness of the early death of Mozart. 

Most of the rest of what you have to say about swing I don't understand.


« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 03:37:14 PM by Chaszz »
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Offline Dax

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2010, 11:46:43 PM »
the prevalence of genius.

And what are your criteria for assessing that?

Offline knight66

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2010, 12:01:04 AM »
Now you've done it.

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Offline The new erato

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2010, 03:30:14 AM »
Now you've done it.

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Offline jowcol

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2010, 06:27:10 AM »
Maybe. There's little swinging to be found in western classical music though, and to be honest, there isn't a lot to be found among white Jazz musicians either (bar an handful of exceptions).

It could grow to be a mighty big handful pretty quickly....  I tend to avoid classifying musicians  by pigmentation, and in this case, there is a very large body of musicians of different pigmentation that have been classified as "swing" players. .   Wasn't Benny Goodman the "Sultan of Swing?"  (Although Chick Webb's band swung harder, IMO). 


Quote
A few considerations. Swinging can only occur in improvisation.


I've seen a few approaches to notating swing here are a couple:
http://www.howmusicworks.org/hmw510.html
http://davemyers.com/amcc/when3.htm

These definitions seem a bit rigid, the composing software I have lets you slide the divisions in each beat pair to a different degree, depending on how hard you want to swing. 

A lot of the swing bands (which do not, I agree, compile all of what is possible in swing), did not put much emphasis on improvisation.  And it would amaze me that no "classical" composer in the last century has specified that a work to be played in a swing rhythm.  (Of course, if we adopt the convention that swing is whatever we call swing, that may not be as much of a concern. )

Of course, on the other side, we can say that great music is often not a slave to the metronome, and the rhythmic variances in performance  (particulalry that which cannot be expressed in notation) are often crucial.  As i recall, the liner notes to Mingus' Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (great album) quoted Elvin Jones on the essence of keeping the beat by not playing directly on it. 

Quote
Swinging happens in the melody, not in the beat.

Would this imply that drummers like Gene Krupa and Chick Webb couldn't swing? Buddy Rich? 

Quote
You can swing over any type of harmony. Swinging feels right (rhythm doesn't always ought to). Mozart could swing, Beethoven could not. Swinging means doing everything right. Swinging is improvisation. Swinging is superior to virtuosity. Real virtuosity is swinging. Are you getting all this?

A lot of these terms are very subjective, but I agree that the moments when the variations in performance, and a "whole is greater than the sum of the parts" transcends clinical virtuosity for the listener's experience.  But then again,  I listen to a lot of blues.  (It's interesting the discussions of the shuffle beat are often pair with the swing beat...) 

« Last Edit: April 05, 2010, 08:29:09 AM by jowcol »
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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2010, 07:03:32 AM »
And it would amaze me that no "classical" composer in the last century has specified that a work to be played in a swing rhythm.

I recall seeing a Ligeti score where the indication is "with swing".

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2010, 07:50:52 AM »
I recall seeing a Ligeti score where the indication is "with swing".

One of the piano etudes, I forget which exactly. Another one is to be played "avec l'elegance du swing"   8)
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Offline jowcol

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2010, 09:15:58 AM »
You're so clueless. Stop acting like you're an authority or that you have any sort-of insight on this stuff. You know nothing about it at all, anyone can see that.

The pupils of the Tendai School used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence. On the first day all were silent Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil-lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: 'Fix those lamps.'

The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk. 'We are not supposed to say a word,' he remarked.

 'You two are stupid. Why did you talk?' asked the third.

‘I am the only one who has not talked,' muttered the fourth pupil.
       
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Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Music from non-orchestral cultures
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2010, 10:13:30 AM »
Don't take what i said literally. The concept of swinging isn't something you can quantify, it isn't a specific technique with its own rules and fixed values. It is something intangible, which can only be reproduced instinctively. Human language cannot deal with the world of invisible things therefore the only way to properly express a particular idea is to use language to convey a feeling of the direction of where the idea may lie. The rest its entirely up to you.

Wasn't Benny Goodman the "Sultan of Swing?"  (Although Chick Webb's band swung harder, IMO). 

The sultan of swing music, not of swinging.

A lot of the swing bands (which do not, I agree, compile all of what is possible in swing)

They don't compile anything whatsoever in relation to swinging. Swinging is a quality of playing music characteristic of Jazz. Swing is a form of Jazz music which just happens to share the same name. The relationship is purely semantic.

Would this imply that drummers like Gene Krupa and Chick Webb couldn't swing? Buddy Rich?

Drummers can swing, and that is why they play outside the beat. Indeed, the best drummers play right alongside the melody (I.E., Max Roach). Swinging is a way of doing things applied to developing musical patterns within a specific time frame. The way those musical developments interlace with each other is what creates Jazz improvisation. A beat is a constant rhythmic pulse which underlines the structure of the music. It has no relation to time within time and that is why it cannot swing.